Boys + their Weapons…

My two youngest are BOYS. And they are soooo different than the GIRLS. We had the girly-girl, with all her cute little Polly Pockets and Princesses, and we had the sporty-spice with her rough-n-tough attitude and worn out sneakers. We crafted, we chatted, we baked, we giggled (a lot!). I can’t even describe how many thousands of miles (or kilometers) away that is from “the little boy”.

Don’t get me wrong, Tt and Boo are SWEET! Tt has actually teared up at an emotional movie the other day (OHMYGOSH how sweet is THAT!?!?). Boo is a little snuggle that I could just squish with kisses over and over. But boys have layers. They may have fewer layers than girls, but they have ’em. Inside is the mushy-soft “I really love you, Momma” huggie layer; then comes the regular just hangin’ out layer; then there’s the crazy insane laughter layer (or was that the “too much sugar” layer?); the competitive/sporty layer, and last the crusty outer layer that most Mom’s would just love to throw out with the trash – the WAR layer.

Now, let me preface by saying I take MUCH responsibility for this in Tt, and as a result, Boo. We basically have 4 “adults” in our house, and can’t/don’t always monitor what is being shown on our TV when the boys are around. Tt is in LOVE with Star Wars and has seen all six movies many times (unfortunately, so have I…). Fighting. Guns. Weapons. Wars.

But even without that, I wonder how unavoidable it really is. Teenage Mutant Turtles – fighting. Kung Fu Panda – fighting. Video Games – FIGHT-ing! Watching hockey – fighting. Water guns – fighting. Learning about Medieval times – Knights – fighting. Even in our schoolwork! I-ya.

I actually don’t mind it – boys will be boys. A generation ago it was Cops and Robbers. Cowboys and Indians. Good guys have to chase someone – what, are they just going to hang out and have tea?? Bad guys don’t do tea.

The problem really only comes when trying to kung fu a little brother. Or shoot down a grampa going in for a hug. We try to have rules, like “no shooting at real, live people” or “no karate chopping your little brother” or “don’t kill your sister, please”. Otherwise, it’s every man, woman and child for himself.

It amazes me how much of an art warfare can be. He has the duck and tuck – James Bond style (and no, I have not shown him the movie) (yet) – in and around garbage bins. He has about 40 different sounds for weapons of all kinds from sword swishes to canon blast. He can take ANY toy – even a fluffy bunny – and make it into a weapon with his crazy imagination.

And of course, the little brother being so influenced by the older, Boo has already mastered the handling of a (plastic) sword and the light-saber. (They battle – it’s super-cute!).

So, being the ever-eager, just-starting-out homeschooling mom that I am (!), we’re taking HIS interest and making into a LESSON! We’ve been taking his new-found love of Knights to introduce the Medieval era. We visited the Colloseum this summer (Gladiators) and started to talk about Ancient Rome. A week or two ago I started telling him about a war between Britian/France. I’m going to teach him about the Samuri next, by way of their unique weapons. At this point, I think he’d learn just about anything I introduced if it was associated with a cool weapon. And I don’t think he’d ever forget it.

Boys. Aren’t they just so precious??

How to Cut a 1-yr olds Hair

It’s been tricky with this one. He does NOT like to sit, forget about sit when I want him to and then play with his hair for 20 minutes. He waves and flinches and fusses. Sudden movements and super sharp hair scissors do NOT mix…

Fortunately he’s only needed about 2 haircuts so far, but for his third I decided to try a new tactic.

The Sleeping Monster. First you need to get him to nap on top of a towel…

And if I move slooooowww, and try to keep the hair off his face…

Then ever so carefully turn him over. (mental note for next time – wait 10 minutes to make sure he’s back asleep…)
Oh, this must tickle. Somewhere in his dream he’s being tickled.

Ok – as you were!
I’ll bet he wakes up itchy.

Yep – that’s an “I’m awake and ITCHY – what the HECK?!?” kind of face.

Oooh, well. I’ll touch it up next nap.

Ooohh, those eyelashes…

With each Kid, there’s one thing that just gets me, that makes me smile or sigh every time I see it. With Boo, it’s those big dark, dark brown eyes, and those eyelashes.

OOoooh, those eyelashes. Even though I know he gets them from me, I still feel envious – they just look so much more gorgeous on him.

Some woman some day is gonna fall in love with these eyelashes.

Trying to capture their full effect on film is just dang near impossible.

But it won’t stop me from trying…

Homeschool #001 – Here we go!

(Tt’s “school” picture – LOVE it! Just have to add in that cheesy
blue marbley background to match the girls pics)

Tt and I are “trying out” homeschooling this year. Tt is 4 1/2 years old, so we’re just now in that odd – confused – no idea what we’re getting ourselves into stage… My theory (such as it is) is that we find out as much about homeschooling as we can this year, try to get into a rhythm of meeting people, attending field trips and doing activities at home and if we get hooked, we get hooked! If not, it’s never too late to throw him into a Kindergarten somewhere.

Finding out about homeschooling… Unschooling? Home Learning? Traditional Learning? Charlotte Mason learning? Home Educating? Non-traditional learning? Structured learning? De-schooling? Independend Study Programs? Oy. I’ve decided rather than do all the de-coding, I’ll just spend the year figuring out how WE want to learn, then let someone tell us what that’s called. Ya. Sounds good. (Already I’m avoiding homework – we must be headed towards “un” schooling !)

(Tt learning about magnetism…)

The comments I get most so far are definately geared towards socialization – it’s a popular question. But it is a rather silly one if you think about it. Who says being stuck with 30 – 200 people your exact age for 12 years is the only way to learn social skills (or a healthy way, for that matter)? When else in our life are we stuck with ONLY people our own age all day? And how many people at a school will you really find that share your values and love of learning (which is really all I hope to instill)? 5? We’ll aim for quality socializations over quantity.

(Then again, I guess we’ll see what letting a 4-yr old boy hang out with too many teenage girls NOT his age does to a kid’s “socialization” skills…)

We’re pretty social as it is, so I’m not worried. We often have a houseful of kids – our own 4, their friends, and adults of all ages. We attend church regularily and later Tt + Boo will attend youth groups. We’ve found 2 or 3 homeschool groups where we’ve been getting to know other kids of various ages (and Moms) (also of various ages). And we meet more and more families just like us – starting out on this crazy adventure called “being with your Kids a whole dang lot”.

Oh, next comment we often get from people – “I couldn’t do that”, or the extended version, which is what they really mean, “I couldn’t be with my own kids all day every day!”. Well, I’m expecting the odd rough patch with us 3 spending a wholelotta time together, but I’m sure everyone has rough patches with their kids whether they see them all day or not. PLUS, my Kids are awesome. seriously, look at that face below – AWESOME.

(Backyard Time)

And then there’s “it sounds like so much work!”. I don’t know – getting up early every am to rush about getting everyone dressed and barely fed breakfast and out the door, into the car with half a lunch and books flying about everywhere and having a few hours to run errands or do some work before heading back through traffic to pick them up again and THEN rush them over to activities before heading home for homework and scraping up a dinner and then finally having an hour of “family time” (GO! quick!) before flopping exhausted into bed – that all sounds like a whole lot more work to me. We’ve tried a bit of both – I definately prefer sleeping in, and having Monday “Jammies Days”, and seeing my car a bit less, and enjoying a nice, long breakfast and latte with my Kids every day, and… ahhhh. Three cheers for less “work”!

(Taking full advantage of “Jammie’s” Day)
(Kids and “media” – a whole ‘nother topic…)

So, we’ll see how it goes.
We’re kind of in a rhythm, and so far all enjoying it immensely.
Looks like we’ll last the year. Next year? We’ll see…

Turning 40… (3 years to go and counting)

THE big 4-0 is now less than three years away… Deadlines of all kinds are probably looming. Many of my friends have already “gone over” to the other side… I’m starting to think – what do I really think about turning 40?

Today it hit me – I’m going to be getting older. (Three years still seems kinda far away, so I’m not going to really feel “older” until I’m about 39.5) (I’ll schedule the minor breakdown into my daytimer now). But not just that – I’m always going to be getting older. We get older and older day by day until our days, that finite amount we each are given, are simply done. Over. I thought, HECK, why wait until I’m 80 to wonder what it’s like to look down towards the last five years of my life? Why wait to wonder what I wish I’d DONE before my time was up?

I think first off I’d make a list…
(I’d make it a spreadsheet if this blogger’d do it – GOSH I love spreadsheets!)

THINGS I REALLY WANT TO DO BEFORE I TURN 40 (or, things I should do before I croak…):

– Check my life insurance policy…
– Write that danged will I’ve been procrastinating on for the last 6 years
– SIT STILL and read with my boys more
– SIT STILL and chat with my girls more
– Update my ongoing “journals to Kids” to continue passing all that crap in my brain onto them long after I’m not here to read or chat
– Finish those scrapbooks!
– Take one utterly relaxing, do nothing, sleep-as-much-as-I-want vacation… *sigh*. by myself. oooooh, feel the bliss!
– Catch up on sleep, then get more sleep
– Go on some dates with Husband
– Have a few more great dinners with friends of all kinds
– Read my Bible cover-to-cover one more time
– Take one more big family vacation (I might even consider a cruise) (nah, who’m I kiddin’?)
– Finish that screenplay… or at least write a few more chapters… ok, just add some notes on the margins and call it a day.
– Perfect my bouillabaise, eat at least 2 more cassoulet’s and have 3 more crab dinners
– Start walking more to lose the weight from all that food so I don’t die feeling so lumpy
– Plan one heck of a 40th birthday party.

Good start. (Although odd to note that the thing I most seem to want to do before I rest for eternity is… well, rest.)
Forty – here I come!

Fun things to do with Teenage Daughters

Or, tricky ways to get your teenage daughters to hang with you…

A few of my friends with smaller girls (under 10) will admit they really truly fear the “TEENAGE” years ahead – that age where many young, sweet, chatty, sit-on-your-lap little girls suddenly become internalized balls of confusion, near which you are no longer welcome.
I’m lucky MY daughters are still super sweet (when they’re not trying to slip something past me – hear me, girls – if I don’t already know what you’re up to, I find out!), but even so it takes work to keep a relationship between teen girls and a Mom going.
Here are some things we’ve done since the big “alien capture” that seems to occur somewhere in the middle of their Grade 8 year…

1. Dates.
We often make a night of a movie together – whether just two of us or all three.
Sometimes A and Momma Bear go on “reading dates” to Chapters where we buy lattes (or hot chocolate) and sit and read whatever we’ve picked up, sitting together but not having to talk unless we want to.
Sometimes B and Momma Bear go on “shopping dates” where she spends all my money on something I’ll probably never be able to wear! (I like it better when it’s s’thing I can borrow…)

The first day “out” of school, the three of us girls go for “Tea” at the Secret Garden to celebrate, look at their yearbooks, talk about their goodbyes, etc.

2. Encourage them to go out with their friends.
Shocking but true – the more you encourage them to have friends over, invite friends to dinner, but also to go out with their friends without you, the more they may open up about their friends to you. I’ve always preached to the girls to have a balance – family-only time, friend-only time, friends-as-part-of-our-family time, etc.

3. Dye their hair for them.
Remember those games of trust where you have to fall and “trust” the other person catches you? A teenage girl allowing you to (permanently!) touch their hair is like this game for them.
I’m getting quite pro at putting red streaks in A’s hair!

4. Get tattoos together.
OK, so this one may be extreme. But, for B and Momma Bear, this was actually the plan for awhile. It opened up a number of good conversations, too.
In the end, she got a belly piercing and I just watched/took photos/almost fainted. BUT, I’m sure we still bonded in there somewhere…

5. Read their Magazines.
Never thought I could get so into Teen Vogue! We flip through and have to pick one item on each page that we’d actually wear. Often it’s a pretty tough call.

6. Learn to do a French Mani.
We paint our toes together often. Besides Husband complaining of FUMES, it’s good clean fun. We’ve started collecting a pretty nice group of OPI colors in all kinds of crazy and dark and fun colors. A has also learned to do a mean French Mani and treats all kinds of people who come by. (Good to give teens skills they can use for relating to young’er’uns when they come by).

7. Dinner around the WORLD.
The girls grew out of “birthday parties” for family ages ago. Now, for our family birthday celebrations with all the grandparents/aunts/uncles/etc, the bday Kid gets to pick a country and we make the whole meal from their cuisine. The non-bday Kid gets into it too, helping with decorations etc. It’s also a good way to get them interested in all kinds of food – they still enjoy it, and it seems a contest to see will get stuck with our least favorite food in the end, Chinese…

8. GO TO HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL AND SAW (1 through 5, apparently…).
Ya, well, not generally “adult” favorites, but if they’re willing to LET you be seen with them and their friends, GO. (Even if you have to cover your eyes… and plug your ears… )

9. Get a facebook account. And MSN. And…
Not only do I chat with B and A a lot on facebook, but I chat with their friends and see SOME OF what’s happening in their “inner circles”.

10. Read their books.
I’m still waiting to have time to read “Twilight”, but I did manage to read MOST of the Harry Potter books in time to be excited for the movies with them.

11. Learn to do cool hairstyles (and makeup).
STUDY the fashion mags and learn to do some of the hairstyles and makeup. Practice on them
(and their friends!) – you’ll become “the indispensible Mom” by Grad and Prom. (PLUS, you can have a LITTLE bit of control over how “HO” that makeup can get…). I wish I’d done more of this one…

12. BAKE.
Sometimes when we ACTUALLY have a Friday (or Sat) night FREE with NOTHING pre-set to do (shocking but true), we grab a laptop, a stack of DVD’s and head to the kitchen to see how many recipes we can bake in one night. Husband loves these nights…
A and B both also each still have baking parties just before Christmas every year where they invite 2 or 3 friends and they make 4 or 5 recipes and split them up to take home. I used to be “needed” to help out, but now that they’re older I can sit and enjoy and have a latte and read my own ADULT Vogue while they rush about making an incredible mess of my kitchen. We all love it.

13. Watch THEIR Tv shows.
I am totally addicted to all kinds of shows I would never have found on my own, but watch now because A and/or B like watching them and talking about the characters. We don’t actually have cable at our house, but they see the shows elsewhere and I catch up on DVD or You Tube. (Gossip Girl, anyone???).

(wow – we do a lot together!)

14. Create.
Every Christmas I do almost all of the shopping/planning/wrapping/etc for the grandparents, brothers, Husband, cousins, etc. But I insist that the girls and I HANDMAKE the gifts for the aunts and uncles. Last year it was a bit painful – sewing homemade printed patches of photos we’d taken onto Meinhardt’s cloth shopping bags, filling them of calendars that featured the 4 kids’ artwork, baked goods and felt snowflake coasters – but we (mostly) did it together!

15. Teach fancy table decorating.
Not only does it get them involved in helping at special dinner parties, but it’s something they can really take charge of after awhile and it takes one thing off MY plate!

16. Get into their homework.
When they have a question with a subject, I really try to help. I’ll have to re-read texts, google, stretch my memory, etc, and it can take up to an hour to help out with ONE question, but, hey, it’s still time together, no? AND I get to be smart! I’ve even tried helping them with their Mandarin…

17. One word – STARBUCKS.
Once a week I pick up the girls and we head straight out to Starbucks. Husband thinks this is silly because he bought me a barista machine for home, but somehow going out is better, less distracting. We sit and chat – sometimes about big stuff, mostly about nothing in particular.

18. Another word – ROCKBAND! (or Guitar Hero, whatever they prefer)
We could spend hours at video games – Husband isn’t as into it as I am, but it’s still fun, even for us 3 girls. Tt is getting into it now too and, at 4 1/2, is singing and drumming along.


19. Plan a party.
I love planning parties with the girls – and I THINK they love it too! I even enjoy planning parties for them that Husband and I aren’t “invited” to (because apparently at 16 it’s just not cool to have your parents around anymore. REALLY?? well, ya, it’s not personal, riiiiight??).

Ok, my mental list is about exhausted – I’d hoped to get an “even” 20 items that we do around here, but alas. So I’ve asked the girls friends what “fun” things they do with their mothers/parents… I’ll see if I get anything to provide an update, or at least complete that last item I’d wanted to think of!